During the tribulation period, two mighty witnesses will rise who will testify to the true God with astounding power. In fact, the power of these witnesses brings to mind Elijah (1 Kings 17; Malachi 4:5) and Moses (Exodus 7-11). It is significant that in the Old Testament two witnesses were required to confirm testimony (see Deuteronomy 17:6; 19:15; Matthew 18:16; John 8:17; Hebrews 10:28).
In Revelation 11:3-6 we read God’s prophetic promise:
I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire.
These witnesses will wear clothing made of goat or camel hair, garments that symbolically express mourning — more specifically, mourning over the wretched condition and lack of repentance in the world. The reference to olive trees and lampstands is intended to symbolize the light of spiritual revival. Those who stand against these two witnesses will encounter a fiery response!
Moses and Elijah?
Many expositors believe the two witnesses will actually be Moses and Elijah. Among their reasons:
1) The tribulation is a period in which God deals with the Jews — just like He did in the first 69 weeks of Daniel. Moses and Elijah are unquestionably the two most influential figures in Jewish history. It would thus make good sense that they be on the scene during the tribulation period.
2) Moses and Elijah appeared on the mount of transfiguration with Jesus. This shows their centrality. Hence, it would be appropriate for them to be on the scene during the future tribulation.
3) The miracles portrayed in Revelation 11 are very similar to those previously performed by Moses and Elijah in Old Testament times.
While these reasons are valid, one cannot be dogmatic, and it is entirely possible that the two witnesses will be two entirely new prophets of God.
The time frame of these two witnesses — 1260 days—measures out to precisely three-and-one-half years. It is not clear from Revelation 11 whether this is the first three-and-one-half years of the tribulation, or the last three-and-one-half years.
It may be best to conclude that the two witnesses do their miraculous work during the first three-and-one-half years, for the Antichrist’s execution of them seems to fit best with other events that will transpire in the middle of the tribulation (such as the Antichrist’s exaltation of himself to godhood). Moreover, the resurrection of the two witnesses — after being dead for three days — would make a bigger impact on the world in the middle of the tribulation than at the end, just prior to the second coming of Christ.
The martyrdom of the two witnesses is described in detail in Revelation 11:8-12:
When they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, “Come up here!” And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them.
This resurrection will serve as a mighty testimony to the power of God during the tribulation. How awesome a day this will be.
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Dr. Ron Rhodes is President of Reasoning from the Scriptures Ministries. He is the author of over 70 books, including 3 Silver Medallion winners. He is a keynote speaker at conferences across the United States. He teaches cult apologetics at Dallas Theological Seminary and Veritas Evangelical Seminary in Murrieta, CA. Learn more at RonRhodes.org
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